ASUN Vice President Alex Bybee announced his resignation to the secret society, Coffin and Keys on July 29 via WordPress. Bybee wrote in his blog that he realized that some of organization’s beliefs did not align with his own and offers an apology to anyone that has been offended by the content released on their newsletter.
Bybee was originally attracted to the Coffin and Keys because of the potential to fulfill its mission, to serve for the betterment of the University of Nevada, Reno, but no longer feels that he should be a part of it after hearing student complaints during a Senate hearing in May.
ASUN Director of Legislative Affairs Madeline Burak said she hopes Coffin and Keys realizes that some students are troubled by the things they write and take this an opportunity to make a positive change in the university.
“I read the newsletters and obviously the content, I think, has been upsetting at times and hopefully we will see a little bit of a change in it,” Burak said.
What made you take the decision to leave Coffins and Keys?
“Last semester proved to have its challenges and then summer came and with summer came reflection and after that reflection I determined that that was the best decision both for me personally and in my capacity as vice president,” Bybee said.
Was it a hard decision to make?
“Yes and no,” Bybee said. “It was a hard decision in that, you know, I said this in my statement that I value the friendship that I have with individuals that are in the organization, so I don’t want the perception to be that the individuals in the organization are bad people.”
“That was my biggest struggle was ensuring that it was clear that this was not compatible with my values. I’m not condemning people in the organization I just believe that it’s reached a point in its history where it doesn’t represent what it has been representing.”
What views does Coffins and Keys have that you don’t agree with?
“It was formed by the ten members representing each of the various factions existing at the time in 1916 and we are in 2014, 100 years later,” Bybee said. “While an all-male society may have served the function of bridging gaps in 1916, the fact of the matter is we have over 200 clubs and organizations with a lot of strong female leadership and if the organization really wants to fulfill its purpose of bridging factions on this campus then it would do just that and be inclusive of everybody.”
“In particular, one of the issues that was released a few months that was [discussed] during the trial was something about ‘drink a lot and you won’t remember and neither will she’ and that too me really strike a chord because I really stand for, a strong advocate for clear consent in relationships and the protection of women,” Bybee said.
Did you know that your views did not align with the organization’s view before joining?
“To be quite honest with you, I wasn’t an avid reader of Coffin and Keys newsletters so a lot of what had been written throughout the year just wasn’t something that I had picked up and paid much attention to and so, after a student came and expressed their concerns about what had been written, I did a lot of reflection and came to understand that those words have an effect on a lot people on our campus,” Bybee said.
Did you make this decision for yourself, your constituents, or both?
“As a person, as Alex, it made sense for my values and what I stand for to no longer affiliate myself [with Coffin and Keys], but then understanding that there are so many student that my office represents that, quite frankly, felt hurt or offended by some of the content that has been released by the organization,” Bybee said. “I also felt the responsibility in that capacity to say, ‘I cannot do this.’”
Will this decision make you a better leader for our university?
“I think that symbolically that this stands for students that have been hurt by what’s been published or students that feel threatened by the organization,” Bybee said. “I think that symbolically this will make students feel more comfortable.”
What responses have you gotten from family, friends, voters about the decision that you took?
“I think a lot of people acknowledge the complexity of the decision at hand,” Bybee said. “A lot of people that are close to me saw me struggle with the decision and how I was going to go about it and how I could minimize people being hurt.”
“I really just want it to be clean break away, a decision that both just for me and for my office,” Bybee said. “My family and friends have been supportive and I can’t be more thankful to them.”
What responses have you got from other members of Coffins and Keys?
“I don’t want to get too much into the relationship aspect of this decision,” Bybee said. They’ve been supportive and I appreciate that from them. I really do.”
Do you gain or lose something from leaving the organization behind?
“For me, this isn’t about gains or losses,” Bybee said. “This is about standing up for the principles and values that I believe in. This is about making sure that our campus has a warm, safe culture where students don’t feel scared to be themselves or scared to act in a certain way in fear of being written about.”
“It’s ultimately about what I feel is right for myself and for this campus.”
Does this change anything between you and President Pereira?
“No, absolutely not,” Bybee said. “That was also a concern in making this decision. This is a personal decision that I have made.”
“I don’t want the perception to be that our relationship is affected by this decision,” Bybee said. “Jake and I have a good working relationship. We do hold different views and I think that that ultimately furthers our institution because we are able to have spirited debates about the direction of our university so Jake and I have and will continue to have a strong working relationship as president and vice-president.”
Do you know if Jake will also follow your example?
“I haven’t asked and I haven’t thought about it,” Bybee said. “This is a decision that I’ve made,” Bybee said.
“When we went into this, when we ran together, this was about ensuring that we had a vision together to better this institution and we will continue to do that, but we are also our own people,” Bybee said. “We make our own decisions, so I do not have an answer for that question.”